Stand Apart – but be Cohesive

by | 16 Apr 2024

I received a number of congratulations on the LinkedIn platform last month when apparently it let people know I have been with Cohesive Networks for 9 years.

As I reflected on this one thing stands out in relief, and that is Cohesive has always “stood apart” within the markets it serves.

Cohesive Networks exists at the confluence of virtualization, cloud, networking and security. We are of course a part of this commercial market but have not been re-directed by every twist and turn of these markets that have come and gone. Flavor and fashion are often the order of the day, and no doubt we have adopted some of the descriptive labels through time. But the labels have not swayed us from our essential mission, getting customers to, through and across the clouds safely.

If you look at the Gartner hype cycle for cloud networking it provides a gallery of differentiators through time: network observability, container/kubernetes networking, multicloud networking, SASE, SSE, Network-as-a-Service, SD-branch, network automation, network function virtualization, software defined networking, zero trust networks, software-defined WAN, micro-segmentation. If you look at these different facets, the tools, techniques, and knowledge to implement these are not that different. What is different is the packaging and the go-to-market.

Because we have been providing a virtual network platform since the clouds began, we have had customers use us for all of these functions. As a result the good news is we have been less “swayed” by flavor and fashion, which has done well for our existing customer. The bad news is we haven’t always best communicated our value to the potential new customer who may be thinking very much in the context of one of these re-packaged approaches.

Our usual inbound leads are “Hi, I think we need your stuff” or “Hi, we are using a lot of your stuff, can we discuss volume discounts and support plans”.

This communication posture stems from the fact that we have often been ahead of our competitors in either implementation or insight, or both. We were the first virtual network appliance in the EC2 cloud, IBM Cloud, many of the “clouds no-more”, and at later dates among the first network and security appliances in Azure and Google.

Cohesive’s patents are for “user controlled networking in 3rd party computing environments”. It is a subtle distinction – but powerful, between what an infrasturcture administrator, network administrator or hypervisor administrator could do at that time, and the freedom of our users on that infrastructure to create any network they wanted. These are encrypted, virtual networks that their infrastructure providers know nothing about, can not see, nor control. Our users in 2009 and beyond could create any secure, mesh, over-the-top network they wanted without the need or expense of the network incumbents who came before us. These customers find us significantly easier, significantly less expensive and made for the cloud without “metal” roots dragging them back to the ground.

When we showed this capability to investors, partners, infra providers, acquirerers – many of them said “I don’t get it” or “we’ll do better (someday)” or “you have to do all this in hardware” and more. By comparison, the customers who found us through web search, cloud conferences, and cloud marketplaces said “that’s what I need” and a subscription cloud networking company was born.

Looking back, it is shocking that our first offering was “virtual subnets”. It is amazing to think about it, but we sold subnets! At that time any cloud you used put your virtual instances in a very poorly segmented subnet of the compute virtualization environment. People wanted to control addresses, routes, and rules, and our encrypted mesh overlay provided it. That was our first product-market fit, and of course that has evolved considerably.

This set us on the path of listening to our customers, and asking ourselves quite fundamentally what a network is, and what is it used for, and by whom?

So while we stood apart, of course we were Cohesive.

Networks are all about standards and interoperability, we just did it our own way.

The feedback from customers was “yes” and “more please”. The feedback from the experts often remained “huh”. So we pressed forward in our own autonomic and somewhat autistic manner, only listening to certain market signals and obsessively working to fulfill a vision of networking and security that says “networks are addresses, routes and rules, everything else is implementation detail the customers should rarely see.”

Now in 2024 and beyond, as the chaotic streams of the changing cloud markets, Internet Protocol v6, and the needs for secure AI and private AI collide, my guess is we will still stand apart while still being Cohesive.